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Almond milk is a great dairy alternative. Image Lisa Redfern – Pixabay

There are many reasons to make a move to plant-based milk – dairy intolerance, caring for the environment or just being an annoying vegan, are just a few.

There are many different types of plant-based milks on the market and gone are the days of milking almonds.

Tomorrow, Saturday August 22, marks the annual World Plant Milk Day campaign, an international day that celebrates plant-based alternatives to dairy milk and helps to accelerate the transition from dairy milk to the rich variety of plant-based alternatives – for better health, to protect the environment, and for animal welfare. To mark the occasion, organisers are encouraging members of the public to sign-up to a seven-day dairy-free challenge.

The focus of this year’s campaign, which was founded by Robbie Lockie in 2017, is ‘The Future is Dairy Free.’ The initiative has reached millions of people around the world and played a role in many making the transition away from dairy milk.

There are several benefits of switching from dairy to plant milk, from increased energy, less bloating, improved digestion, and clearer skin among others. Those signing up to the seven-day dairy-free challenge will discover how going dairy-free can benefit their own health, as well as reducing their carbon footprint – the 13 largest dairy companies in the world produce the same greenhouse gas emissions as the entire UK, the sixth-largest economy.

Irish actress Evanna Lynch says that despite the prevailing myths, dairy is not an essential food group and it is certainly not ethical. ‘I spent many years following a vegetarian lifestyle and was dismayed to learn about the perpetual cycle of grief, exploitation and ultimately slaughter that dairy cows endure.

‘It is an unsustainable industry and a very cruel distortion of the female reproductive system. And, you will be pleased to know, your immune system and skin will thank you for switching to plant milk! It is always hard to change habits but quitting dairy was truly the best thing I did for my health.’

World Plant Milk Day’s seven top tips

World Plant Milk Day’s is putting up a challenge for everyone to undertaking a seven-day dairy-free challenge and they have given seven top tips to help you get through.

  • Try a few different milks to find your favourite

Changing habits of a lifetime take a little work – but that doesn’t mean it should be difficult. In fact, switching to plant milks has never been easier, with a huge selection of dairy-free milks available in stores throughout the country – from convenience stores to large supermarkets. From oat to soya, cashew, almond, hemp, rice, pea and more, there’s a dairy-free milk for everyone. Our favourites include oat milk for foamy lattes, almond milk smoothie bowls or protein-packed soya poured over granola. Try a few to find your personal preference.

  • Check the labels

With so many plant-based options available to buy, many products are now clearly labelled dairy-free or vegan, making it super simple to shop for dairy-free options. And because milk is an allergen (over 35% of Caucasians are lactose intolerant, rising to over 65% for other ethnicities), food manufacturers must indicate this on the label.

In the UK, products containing milk or milk derivatives are marked in bold. Some products will say ‘may contain traces of milk’ as they’re produced in a factory that handles dairy, but this is usually a trace amount, so as long as you aren’t allergic to dairy these products are typically fine to consume (providing they don’t also contain meat, gelatine, whey, eggs or honey if you’re opting to undertake a fully plant-based seven-day challenge).

  • Plan ahead

Before beginning any challenge or lifestyle change it’s always good to plan ahead to minimise any temptation not to see the challenge through! Plan your meals and buy ingredients in advance. So, if you usually top anything and everything with cheese, or you enjoy yoghurt with breakfast, source some of the huge range of dairy-free alternatives to try instead.

Or, if you can’t live without your morning cup of coffee, make sure you have enough plant-milk to last you the whole week. You could even treat yourself to a meal out – most restaurants provide dairy-free options now, and there are vegan cafes in many towns and cities that cater just for plant-based diets (pizza and freakshake, anyone?). Check out the Happy Cow app to find eateries near you which provide dairy-free alternatives.

There are also a whole host of dairy-free recipes available at the World Plant Milk Day website – from whole foods to indulgences – or via our partner, Switch4Good, to prepare at home.

  • Treat yourself

Rewarding yourself is important as you meet those all-important milestones – whether it’s completing each day of the challenge, or waiting until the seven days are up. Ready-to-eat plant-based options have come a long way in recent years.

From dairy-free Ben & Jerry’s ice creams to store-bought cakes, dairy-free ‘milk’ chocolate or mac n cheese to go, there are thousands of dairy-free treats available to buy in stores – and most are so close to dairy based products you probably won’t even notice the difference!

You’ll probably be surprised by the amount of choice available, too. Or, you could have a go at making your own treats, such as these vanilla cupcakes with fluffy buttercream, 7-ingredient cheesecake, or this decadent dairy-free chocolate pretzel pie.

  • Learn about the benefits

Going dairy-free has multiple benefits for our health – with leading doctors, such as Dr Shireen Kassam, founder of Plant-Based Health Professionals, stating that dairy is not necessary as a health food. In fact, consumption of dairy has been linked to increased risks of breast and ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, and no reduction in the risk of hip fracture – despite it being promoted as important for bone health.

There are many resources available which outline the benefits of a plant-based diet, including documentaries on Netflix such as What the Health, Forks over Knives and Game Changers, or visit Switch4Good to learn more about how a dairy-free diet can improve health and athletic performance.

  • Focus on what you can have, not what you can’t

View the seven-day challenge as a positive step rather than focusing on what you’re switching from your diet.  Having a positive mental attitude will set you up for success, and once you’ve got your haul of dairy-free goodies and your plan for the week ahead, it’s likely you won’t even view it as a challenge at all.

And if you do slip up and reach for the dairy, don’t fret – you can always start again the next day. The challenge is designed to be fun, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself to succeed, or you could set yourself up to fail.

  • Get support along the way

Everyone who signs up to the seven-day dairy-free challenge at www.worldplantmilkday.com will receive daily emails containing tips, advice and recipes to help them along the way. You can also nominate a friend to sign up and take the challenge with you – so you’ll have someone to support you in your journey towards a happy, healthy, dairy-free lifestyle. You could even host your own dairy-free dinner party to get your friends and family on board!

World Plant Milk Day founder, Robbie Lockie, says that in recent years millions of people around the world have become more aware of how dairy production is harmful to animals, the environment, and human health. ‘The current pandemic has shed a further spotlight on the role of animal agriculture in the genesis of new diseases.

’For these reasons and more, we call on everyone to try switching to delicious dairy-free alternatives for seven days. If you sign up for our challenge, we will send you a daily newsletter with recipes, tips, and hacks to make the switch.

‘It’s never been easier, tastier, or more important to start moving away from animal products towards the abundance of plant foods. So why not join us and give it a go – the future is dairy-free.’

You can find out more about World Plant Milk Day – including how to sign-up for the 7-day dairy-free challenge, on their website.

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